New Clause 1 — Independent advocacy: report

Part of Prohibition of Unpaid Internships – in the House of Commons at 3:00 pm on 13th May 2014.

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Photo of Jennifer Willott Jennifer Willott The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills 3:00 pm, 13th May 2014

I understand that rail conditions of carriage are more detailed and already go further than the fundamental backstop rights in the Bill. However, the Department for Transport is reviewing them, and I will ensure that her questions are passed to Ministers so that she receives a more detailed answer. We will ensure that the Bill is not confused with the rail conditions of carriage, and that they take primacy.

Tom Greatrex raised an important constituency case, and I understand why he wished to do that. It concerned a business that had to pay a deposit for a telecoms contract, but the Bill does not affect business-to-business rights; it is about consumer rights and affects consumer-to-business rather than business-to-business contracts. I cannot comment specifically on the case, but it would probably not be covered by the Bill since it is a business case. Generally, however, we are doing more to protect deposits that are paid under contract.

Under the Bill, if a consumer enters into a contract for services and pays a deposit but then cancels, the trader does not have a free hand to retain that deposit. Any term in a contract that allows a trader to retain a deposit must be transparent and prominent to avoid challenge in the courts on grounds of fairness. Where such terms do not also provide equivalent compensation for the consumer when the trader dissolves the contract, they are liable to be challenged as unfair, even if they are transparent and prominent.

Our reforms also include clearer cancellation rights in consumer contracts regulations for consumers who buy at a distance or at home. Consumers must be informed that they have 14 days to change their mind and cancel such contracts, and a trader must reimburse them within 14 days of being informed by the consumer about a cancellation of the services. Those regulations will come into force in June, which will give consumers additional protection.